Pragmatic yet still beautiful and hopeful.

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THROUGH DUST AND DARKNESS

A MOTORCYCLE JOURNEY OF FEAR AND FAITH IN THE MIDDLE EAST

What happens when a man questioning religion goes looking for answers in a theocracy?

The author is a somewhat lapsed Mennonite. Unable to figure out his views on God, Kroeker (Motorcycle Therapy: A Canadian Adventure in Central America, 2006) decided to ride a motorcycle from Germany to Iran. Though other motivations were hazy at best, the idea stuck, and he embarked. Getting into Iran was no easy task, and in the process of attempting it, the author encountered a barrage of obstacles as well as friendly and open people who were willing to take him under their wings. Much of what happens is amusing, and all of it was educational for Kroeker. He learned that in many cases, the people he spoke to would prefer a more liberal government, but he is astute enough to know that those who didn’t would probably not want to discuss the matter with a Westerner. This understanding of nuance and his own limitations make his journey a joy to follow. Kroeker provides plenty of from-the-gut laughs without ever giving the impression that he doesn’t take his surroundings or subject matter seriously. This is an impressive and necessary feat when juggling such a volatile combination, and he handles it with aplomb. The accompanying photographs are what one would expect from a man out to commemorate a personal trip rather than to professionally document the scenes he encountered. Perhaps the best thing about the book, though, is that Kroeker doesn’t neatly sum up his problems with his faith. “Though I had failed to see it earlier,” he writes, “part of the motivation was to search out God from another vantage point….All my life I’ve sought God through a lens, as we all do, but it’s a long lens. Through it, you just can’t see everything.”

Pragmatic yet still beautiful and hopeful.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-927330-74-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Rocky Mountain Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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